The Blackhouse – Peter May

Caroline’s gran used to say that she didn’t give up the booze and fags, they gave her up. I’m starting to understand how she felt. ‘Giving up’ in this case implies an effort of will to stop doing something you enjoy, whereas these things giving you up gets the sense of something you enjoyed becoming noxious; something that is no longer your friend. After consuming more red wine than was good for me yesterday, and enjoying it, I was quite prepared to accept the cost. This was presupposing that the cost would be me dropping into a coma, snoring like a pig all night, then waking up with gorilla pooh in my mouth, a mad dwarf making horseshoes in my skull and that general feeling of icky sickness. Unfortunately booze doesn’t do that to me any more. I did drop into the coma, but just for four hours. Waking at 2.00 I lay fidgeting, itching, feeling depressed and quite rough and by 2.30 knew that was the end of my sleep for the night. However, on the plus side, to distract myself from this malaise, I picked up the book I was reading and polished it off over the ensuing four hours.

The Blackhouse is a combination of a coming of age story and a murder mystery, and so much more than that. I was riveted to the end, fascinated by this glimpse into life on the Isle of Lewis, engaged with all the characters – liking and admiring some, hating others, and in one satisfying scene near the end all but cheering on one of them. If I have any negative criticism it is that a ‘reveal’ wasn’t sufficiently telegraphed earlier on so the reader could go, ‘Yes, of course’. This is an excellent book and well worth the cover price just for the guga hunt on An Sgeir. Highly recommended.  

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